of the firm of R. Seten & Son Hardware Company, Harrisburg, Illinois, came to Saline county when a young man, and as a farmer, merchant and coal prospector and operator, has helped to make history here. As one of the leading citizens of the county for many years, a sketch of his life is of interest in this work, devoted as it is to a portrayal of the lives of the representative men and women of Southeastern Illinois.
Ross Seten was born near Salem, in Washington county, Indiana, July 18, 1835, and on a farm in that county spent his boyhood days. He remained in Washington county until 1858, when, with four hundred dollars in cash and a two-horse team, he came over into the neighboring state of Illinois and established himself on a farm of one hundred and sixty acres near Sulphur Springs, ten miles southeast of Harrisburg. This land he purchased at four dollars and fifty cents an acre. Later he sold it and bought and sold other lands, and he still owns three hundred and sixty acres, eighteen dollars an acre being the highest price he ever paid for any land. Here for twenty years he made his home and gave his attention to farming and stock raising, raising and buying and selling cattle and hogs, also trading for all kinds of stock, and making large shipments to market.
About 1873 Mr. Seten bought a small hardware and furniture store, and placed his son George in charge of it. A few years later he left the farm and moved to Harrisburg, where he has ever since made his home. On the present site of the Trust & Savings Bank he built a large two-story frame building, and subsequently he bought and built on the north side of the block. In the meantime he had taken his son as a partner in the business. In 1891 the furniture and hardware stock was divided, and his son took the furniture end of the business. Mr. Seten sustained loss by fire three times at his original location, and after the last fire he sold out to the bank. For several years he carried a stock of general merchandise, including dry goods, but of recent years he has confined his stock to hardware, and now under the firm name of the R. Seten & Son Hardware Company, has one of the finest hardware stores in Southern Illinois, handling general hardware, steam fittings, auto fixtures, mining tools and miners' supplies. His stock will exceed $12,000 and the annual trade of the firm amounts to between fifty and sixty thousand dollars.
Mr. Seten and his sons were stockholders in the Saline County Coal Company, pioneers in the coal industry in this county. It was about 1898 or 1899 that they began operations. They sunk a shaft three miles and a quarter west of the Big Four Railroad, and developed a mine that had an output of 600 tons when, in 1904, they sold to the O'Gara Coal Company. The old name was then dropped, although soon afterward a new company took the same name. They believed that coal in paying thickness could be found. Accordingly they secured an option on land
three miles west of Harrisburg and, sinking a hole ostensibly for stock water, they found coal in a seven to eight foot vein and at once began operations, and thus when the O'Gara Coal Company came to Saline county it was a ready buyer of the property. Mr. Seten's farm of three hundred and sixty acres, eight miles from Harrisburg, is all underlaid with coal, but as yet no mines have been developed on this tract, it being held for future use. Mr. Seten was one of the original directors of the Saline County Trust & Savings Bank, and is still one of its stockholders.
While he has never been active in politics he has always been a public-spirited citizen. He cast his first presidential vote for Fillmore in 1856, and remembers having heard Fremont speak in that campaign. At one time, when Saline county was Democratic by six hundred votes, Mr. Seten was elected on the Republican ticket to the office of county commissioner, and served as such for eighteen months, at the end of that time resigning. Fraternally he is a Mason, The degrees were conferred upon him in Equality Lodge, No. 2, the oldest lodge in Illinois, in 1860, and he at once became a worker in the lodge. In the early days he used to come to Harrisburg to assist in the lodge work. Also he is a member of the Chapter.
On September 20, 1857, Ross Seten and Miss Mary Ann Specks, a native of Campbellsburg, Indiana, were united in marriage, and with the passing years sons and daughters to the number of nine have come to bless their home. Their children in order of birth are as follows: George W., who is engaged in the furniture business; D. K., a grocer; Sigel and John L., in the hardware business; William, a farmer; Alice, wife of J. P. Harmon, of Phoenix, Arizona; Mollie, wife of Robert Macklin; Millie, wife of William Walker; and Pearl, wife of Caliborn Cecil.